Dani Garavelli: Clooney’s big fat tasteless wedding

The overblown nature of George Clooney's wedding to Amal Alamuddin in Venice jars with his efforts to be taken seriously as a selfless campaigner for human rights. Picture: Reuters
The overblown nature of George Clooney's wedding to Amal Alamuddin in Venice jars with his efforts to be taken seriously as a selfless campaigner for human rights. Picture: Reuters
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SEEING as we are playing six degrees of separation, I’d like to point out that I am one just step away from having snogged George Clooney.

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but on a rainy January day in 2004, the slightly hung-over Hollywood demi-god did give our then nanny – let’s call her Amy – a kiss on the cheek as she hung about One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow. He was wearing a beanie hat and shades and was in Scotland to film The Jacket, which he was co-­producing. I can be pretty sure of the details because, as you can imagine, I heard the story several times. Spook­ily, Amy had long dark hair and a face and figure not a million miles from Amal Alamuddin’s, although I never saw her wheeling the buggy in kitten heels or killer stilettos.

Sadly – as she was much-loved by us, if not by Clooney – I long ago lost touch with Amy so have no idea if she spent the last few days screaming “It should have been me” at images of the happy couple, but the most excessive nuptials never to have featured in My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding have certainly provoked extreme reactions.

For many, the £10 million extravaganza – splashed over 30 pages of Vanity Fair Italy – was perfect escapism, a gift for those with the kind of hard-core wedding-porn habit a monthly subscription to Brides magazine just can’t satisfy.

There was ample foreplay; the endless parade of pre-dress dresses – the cute little Giambattista Valli with the 3D flowers, the sophisticated red Alexander McQueen and retro monochrome striped sun frock – all leading up to the big reveal: an Oscar de la Renta ivory, off-the-shoulder gown of Chantilly lace hand-stitched with hundreds of pearls and crystals which, I find it infuriatingly impossible to deny, was a thing of beauty. And then there were the blokes: perfectly groomed, urbane, debonair, the epitome of 1950s glamour. Who among us watched them glide up and down the Grand Canal without pining for the never-experienced days when men smoked Lucky Strike and came home bearing dress and hat boxes?

The celebrity turn-out was pretty impressive too: Bill Murray, Matt ­Damon, Emily Blunt, Anna Wintour. Clooney is a major player; he mingles with big-hitters. OK, so a cameo from Brad Pitt might have livened things up, but no two-bit Kardashian was ever going to wangle their way in.

Yet, even as I revelled in the four-day event, I couldn’t help feeling nauseated. There was something tasteless, even obscene about this supposedly right-on, supposedly private pair indulging in such a flagrant display of self-love. Was the man at the centre of this circus really the same one who set up Not On Our Watch, which tries to prevent mass atrocities; who campaigned for equal rights; who lobbied Barack Obama over Darfur?

Set in Venice the wedding was obviously supposed to recreate the atmosphere of an old-fashioned Hollywood romance and there was something faintly Burton/Taylor-esque about the fleet of boats ferrying guests to and from the Cipriano and Aman hotels. However, Clooney is not a rampant Welsh hell-raiser, but a former United Nations “messenger of peace” and Alamuddin is not a jewellery-­obsessed former child star, but a ­human rights lawyer (albeit she represents Julian Assange) so the vulgar showiness and the hawking of their wedding photos to Hello! and People magazines was incongruous even if the funds were going to Clooney’s ­favourite cause.

Since the only movie I associate with vaporettos is Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, I kept expecting (hoping?) a red-coated, axe-wielding dwarf would jump up and photo-bomb the wedding pictures, shattering their smugness. But, the biggest hiccup came when Alamuddin’s heel got caught in a slatted floor and her shoe fell off (just like Cinderella – swoon!). And the scariest moment was realising how much Bill Murray had aged.

Even my feelings towards Alamuddin were ambivalent; I enjoyed the spoof headline “Internationally Renowned Human Rights Lawyer ­Marries Actor Who Played Handyman On Facts of Life”, as an antidote to all the articles that drooled over Clooney and his “ladylove”. And the ones that heralded the match as proof that clever women could also be desirable. And the ones that assumed ordinary women would be cursing Alamuddin and mourning the end of Clooney’s bachelorhood (even back in the days of ER, I preferred Noah Wyle). But, in the end, Alamuddin’s willingness to take centre part in this overblown publicity stunt diluted any indignation I felt on her behalf and I found myself agreeing with Natalia Naish, creator of the tongue-in-cheek website Your Barrister Boyfriend, which once awarded Alamuddin the title of Hottest Barrister in London, that if you choose to splurge out in such a flashy way you should probably “spare us all the do-gooding talk”.

Now the wedding is finally over, the pair are apparently honeymooning in a private resort in the Seychelles only accessible by helicopter which was recommended to them by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (who recently married in a secret ceremony in France). Photographs of the resort, which costs £3,000 a night, show white beaches, sunken baths and four poster beds with pillars made of driftwood. I don’t begrudge the newlyweds their treats. Not at all. Still, the next time Clooney fronts a telethon for the victims of some earthquake or tsunami, I might remember all this excess and hedonism and be slightly less ­impressed by his selflessness. «

• Twitter: @DaniGaravelli1